Army considers civilian victim advocates
Joint Base Andrews, MD (Army News Service) — The Army is considering doing away with uniformed victim advocates and hiring civilians in their place, said the general in charge of the Army's personnel policy.
Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, Army G-1, said civilian victim advocates are under consideration as the Army moves forward with addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault in the ranks.
"I think we have to go back and rethink the role of the uniformed victim advocate, and how we pick that victim advocate," Bromberg told reporters during the Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, summit, held June 10-11, at Joint Base Andrews, Md.
"Maybe we need to do it better than what we're doing," he said.
"One of the options we are looking at seriously is maybe the victim advocate should only be a civilian," Bromberg said.
The general said another area of consideration is eliminating the rank requirement for the uniformed advocate, saying that perhaps the advocate could be any member of the Army if that person is the right fit.
Whether the victim advocate is a military member or a civilian, Bromberg said, the person has to fight for the victim.
"It's got to be someone who doesn't inhibit you from coming to them, but at the same time is not afraid to push against the chain of command," Bromberg said. "That's where we are going to have to strike the balance."
The Army's surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, said the priority for the Army is to make sure the right policies are in place to prevent sexual harassment and sexual abuse, and to ensure the best medical capabilities are available to protect and care for victims.
"We have to be able to focus our efforts on prevention, for this not occurring at all," Horoho told reporters at the SHARP summit.
She said sexual abuse will never be eliminated.
"You'll never be 100 percent in anything that you do," she explained.
However, she said there are ways leaders can provide a safer environment and Soldiers can protect themselves by knowing the "red flags."
That protective environment is especially important for Soldiers in transition, since a lot of cases of sexual abuse occur when a service members is new to a unit, said Horoho.
She said it is important members are aware of how predators operate and for Soldiers to look out for each other.
"These young service members feel uncomfortable challenging rank structure, and so having the cohesiveness and battle buddy support is very, very important," she said.
She said another key is leadership.
"They set the tone within their units of an environment where people feel comfortable coming forward with any concerns," Horoho said.
It is important for leaders to eliminate tolerance of sexual harassment, she said, so that the harassment "does not lead to the next step, which is sexual assault."